Latin resurgence?

Career & Education

Latin resurgence?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

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Latin may be a dead language, but its frequent appearances in popular culture makes one wonder whether there is a real resurgence.

There's no denying its place in history: Latin is the root of all Romance langauges. So whether you're speaking, reading, or writing in English, French, or Spanish, for example, you can't get very far before stumbling on a word with Latin influence. It is estimated that some 60 per cent of English words have Latin roots.

Here are some of the most popular pop culture Latin phrases appearing in novels, movies and music today.

In omnia paratus

The term translates: prepared for all things

Carpe diem

When new English teacher John Keating shows up at the conservative all-boys school Welton Academy, he turns the teenagers' lives upside down, forcing them to think about poetry — and life — in a brand-new way. His advice is carpe diem, a Latin phrase that literally means “seize the day”.

Why should the kids sit up and grab the day? He offers this rather gruesome explanation: “We are food for worms, lads.” Perhaps more pleasant is Keating's other reference. He compares the term carpe diem to English Cavalier poet Robert Herrick's use of the phrase “gather ye rosebuds while ye may”, a comparison popular in many high school poetry classes.

Tempus fugit

The English rock band Yes might be one of the most successful progressive rock bands of all time, and the 1980 hit Tempus Fugit remains a fan favourite to this day. Although the Latin term is never actually used in the lyrics, its English translation is! Tempus fugit translates to “time flies,” which songwriters worked into the line “in the north sky time flies faster than morning.”

Expecto patronum

Much of the language JK Rowling uses in the Harry Potter series sounds like Latin but is in fact dog Latin, a jargon imitating Latin.

However, expecto patronum, the spell uttered by Harry and his friends when they're calling on a ghostly protector to keep them safe from the onslaught of the Dementors, is translatable into the old language. Expecto means “I await,” while patronum means “a patron”.

In Ancient Rome, a patron referred to the protector of a dependent or client, often the former master of a freedman still retaining certain rights over him. It's not exactly a snow-white stag rushing to Harry's rescue, but the more modern definition of a patron saint hits closer to the mark: “a saint regarded as the special guardian of a person, group, trade, country, etc.”

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is chock full of nonsense phrases, from the knights who say “ni” to the shrubber who arranges, designs, and sells shrubberies.

But, the monks who crop up chanting “pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem” throughout the film are speaking bona fide Latin. Commonly used during Catholic funeral masses, the phrase means “Our Lord Jesus, let them rest.”


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